Although I’m not a fan of key word bingo and leadership buzz words, on this occasion I’m going to make an exception. At some point in the change process the ‘baton’ needs handing over, and in this case it will be to our teachers, who will become the engine house of change. A couple of months ago I blogged about a strategic approach to shifting our whole school teaching and learning ethos to a collaborative, open door, sharing and innovative culture; Re-shaping Teaching & Learning. Following on from that, this blog looks at a practical way to empower teachers in becoming the driving force of this teaching and learning strategy in the form of the lesson observation and subsequent professional development.
In isolation, disconnected from continued professional development (CPD) and used simply for performance management purposes, what therefore, is the point of a lesson observation at all? More importantly, why grade a lesson on a scale from inadequate (4) through to Outstanding (1) if the answer is simply so school leaders can easily put a ‘number’ on teaching and learning? In order to become truly outstanding I believe schools need to develop a culture where all staff embrace the lesson observation as supportive and developmental, a way to reflect upon and improve their own practice. I would also argue the longer schools continue put a ‘number’ on individual lesson observations a genuine open, honest and supportive culture will carry on slipping away. Yesterday I met with our middle leaders to introduce the new practical applications of our new teaching and learning model, which was previously developed at an all staff training session and featured the lesson observation as the integral component to our
triangulation process. We looked in-depth at how we would roll this out and agreed it will take time for teachers to shake off the need to be graded and the associated negative accountability culture that inevitably comes with it. However, it was felt that once teachers had experienced this new approach first hand, they would value the way in which it supports their ongoing development, targeted at their specific professional development need. This view was echoed by the team of teachers who had trialed the concept during last term. It is now set to become an ingrained aspect of our emerging growth mindset culture. The power of change is now firmly in the hands of our teachers.
This new approach to the ungraded observation process has emphasised the importance of one crucial element and this is very much centred around the quality of dialogue/feedback following the observation. For the teacher observed, this focuses heavily on the one ‘big thing’ that will move their teaching forwards, making it a target to focus on without getting lost in an array of ‘woolly’ comments/targets which can all too often be the case. This can only be achieved if the observer understands what real learning and progress looks like and the realisation that there isn’t a prefered style of teaching that will achieve this by itself. The lesson observation is explicitly linked to the whole school CPD programme, and of course, bespoke CPD for individual staff too. Whether it be part of the whole school evaluation cycle, triad based work or simply informal sharing of practice, staff now have a clear vehicle to embrace innovation, take risks and not feel threatened by the ‘observation’ staying up all night planning and placing unnecessary stress upon themselves.
Aiming to keep it as simple and consistent as possible, there are two key documents to support this process:
- The observation form, double-sided with a direct reference to our ‘Menu of Expertise’ on the rear.This is designed to help with the coaching model in the dialogue following the observation, linked to bespoke CPD:
Click here to download: Personal Development Record
- The ‘what to look for when planning and observing learning bookmark’ This comprises of key questions to ask/consider when planning or observing learning and is linked directly to the teacher standards. Please note, the intention isn’t to aim to achieve all of these in every lesson but instead, more an aide-mémoire when developing a sound understanding of learning.
Click here to download: Bookmark for Lesson Observations
I hope you found this blog useful, it’s a work in progress as we move forwards as a school with our new teaching and learning model. I’ll be updating/posting new blogs as we evolve this approach.